From knee-high socks with orange and red flames to the adoption of Ellie Goulding’s “Burn” as a team theme song, coach Jim Luebbe’s goal for his Sacred Heart Academy squad was to “set the pool on fire.”
The Valkyries ended up burning the record book, too.
Sacred Heart won 10 of 12 events and set seven state records along the way in dominating Saturday’s finals of the State Swimming and Diving Championships at the University of Louisville’s Ralph Wright Natatorium.
The Valkyries finished with 502 points, more than double that of runner-up Notre Dame (225). Manual (169) was third, followed by Christian Academy (163), Elizabethtown (158) and North Oldham (139).
According to meet official Bill Tingley, it’s the first time a girls’ team has topped 500 points at the state meet.
Sacred Heart won its record 25th state championship and fourth in five years. And though he was hesitant to call it the greatest team in state history, the normally understated Luebbe couldn’t resist a superlative or two.
“I think this is the single greatest day of swimming that I’ve ever seen from a high school meet,” he said.
The proof was in the times as Sacred Heart set records in all three relays — 200-yard medley (1:41.45), 200 free (1:35.02) and 400 free (3:22.79).
There were four more individual records –all set by sophomores. Asia Seidt broke two in winning the 200 individual medley (1:58.53) and 100 backstroke (53.40) and was named Outstanding Meet Competitor. Brooke Bauer won the 50 free in record time (23.14), and Kennedy Lohman got the mark in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.29).
Other individual winners for the Valkyries were junior Leah Stevens in the 200 and 500 frees and Bauer in the 100 free.
“We came in knowing we could have a complete takeover of this meet,” Bauer said. “Our theme today was ‘Burn.’ It was about letting it burn and bringing the fire. That’s what we did today.”
Luebbe traditionally has a theme for his squad each year and went with “Burn” based on the Goulding song. One lyric from the song: “Cause we got the fire, and we’re burning one hell of a something.”
“We like to have a little bit of fun,” Luebbe said. “We like to do crazy things like dress in crazy outfits. But when it comes down to it, they have the determination to succeed. That comes from their hard work and dedication. …
“I think they do have a burning desire, and it came out this weekend.”
Other individual winners were Highlands’ Carly Hill (diving) and North Oldham’s Grace Oglesby (100 butterfly).
Oglesby, a sophomore, had set the state record in Friday’s preliminaries and broke it again Saturday with a time of 53.45 seconds despite what she said were some nervous moments.
“I just try to have fun and put my trust in God,” she said. “It’s just nerve-racking right before, and then I’m fine.”
But the day belonged to Sacred Heart, which set a goal during the season to finish among the nation’s top three teams in the final National Interscholastic Swim Coaches Association rankings.
Luebbe figured Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles and Carmel (Ind.) might be tough for Sacred Heart to catch but was pleased with Saturday’s performance.
“This year we had flashes of great swims,” Luebbe said, “but they put it together at the right time today.”
* Manual won a tight race for the combined team title, which recognizes combined scores for both boys’ and girls’ teams. Manual had 239.5 points, edging Christian Academy (239) and North Oldham (209).